I live and work with innovators, creators, and visionaries who have an endless supply of fantastic ideas. But it's frustrating--unlocking my own creativity has always felt random at best, and impossible at worst. As a startup CEO, I'm learning that I need to set aside time for creativity more intentionally. But even when I do make time, ideas don't magically bloom.

I am almost always online. And in my overly plugged-in reality, making space for creativity is a challenge.

There has to be ways to think better, dream bigger, innovate smarter. And I am going to find them. I'm on a mission to uncover the best and most-overlooked methods for enhancing creativity–talking to innovators and creative leaders with wisdom to share.

First, I reached out to Tech Ethicist David Ryan Polgar. He's leading the thought-cavalry on how to explore our vast tech frontier and use it for good. If you don't know his work, you should.

In these excerpts from our interview, Polgar draws a reliable roadmap we can all follow to arrive at creativity:

Shelley: Creativity and innovation are essential for the work so many of us do today. Even though I need to proactively make the space for creativity to percolate, I find that it's really hard. What are your suggestions for being more intentionally creative?

David: We need to start viewing time for reflection as a necessity, not a luxury. Unfortunately, we often view the act of being intentionally creative as frivolous since we may not see instant results. Our obsession with milking each moment can sometimes get in the way of our creative process. The more we trust the process of allowing our brain to have occasional mental space, the more we are able to let go of our always-on tendencies.

Shelley: You say that creativity is about "creating unusual connections" by allowing your brain to wander and wonder. What do you mean by that?

David: Creative ideas are those that combine elements that seem completely unrelated, but then fit together beautifully. Oftentimes, a genius idea seems obvious in hindsight. How come nobody thought of it before? In order to have an original idea, you need to have the freedom to make original connections. The creative process relies on letting go of the preconceived notions that we may have towards how a product or process is done.

I like to think of my own brain as a kite on a string. By flying the kite, I am allowing it to be blown in unexpected directions. At the same time, I am still able to reel in the kite.

Shelley: Is this the recipe for brilliant ideas? What other ingredients do you think people are missing to be their most creative?

David: There is a recipe: collect and reflect. When you are baking a cake, you need to add the correct ingredients and put the oven on the right temperature. Likewise, brilliant ideas rely on gathering ingredients and putting them in an ideal environment.

We do ourselves a disservice thinking of creativity in such a mysterious fashion. Our very conception of an "Aha Moment" is that it comes out of nowhere. The idea doesn't come out of nowhere, it just feels that way because our brain is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work without our direct awareness.

Thinking of the creativity as a two-step process of collect and reflect moves us away from merely waiting for the proverbial lightning to strike. If a brilliant idea is not coming, it is usually time to either change your environmental conditions in order to better reflect, or go out and start collecting more content. The more unusual, the better.

For my own creative process, I am a voracious and non-judgmental reader. Just about every week I can be found reading a stack of magazines at Barnes and Noble, running the gamut from Kafka to Kardashian. In terms of reflection, nothing causes the creative juices to flow like a train or plane ride.

In all the busyness--texts, emails, phone calls, meetings--it's easy to sideline time for reflection. Now, thanks to Polgar, reflection is like driving to me. Going somewhere. Collecting is just putting gas in the tank.

 

 

Published on: Aug 14, 2015
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